Sunday, November 8, 2009

Colson Whitehead & Twitter

Back in 1999, when Colson Whitehead's first novel The Intuitionist appeared, it wasn't immediately clear (at least not to me) just how humorous and witty he was. Not on the first read. The Intuitionist is a deep and difficult book, with "a whole lot of big words," to quote some of my peeps. So reading that first novel alone would hardly lead folks to characterize Whitehead's work as funny.

But then after reading his subsequent books, it became necessary to re-read his first one with an awareness of his fondness for humor. The subsequent books and essays like The Perfect Gift, Visible Man, and most recently The Year of Living Postracially make it clear that Whitehead has always been a thoughtful joker, a trickster all along.

These days, you can catch him on twitter, where he's prone to toss out some zingers in less than 140 characters. One day, he dropped a pop culture-inspired haiku, showing a familiarity with 24 as he tweets:
Who doesn't love TV haiku? #24 "Release Jack Bauer! / Quickly they reconsider / Arrest Jack Bauer!"
Now, this next one was kind of harsh (too soon?), but whatever the case, on that fateful day this past June, Whitehead tweeted:
Michael Jackson had a heart attack. Someone told him he was black.
Ah..but fans of Ralph Ellison have to appreciate when Whitehead tweeted this one:
Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I tweet for you?
It's hard to say at this moment what tweeting might mean for how we perceive African American novels and novelists. So for now, we'll keep watching.

Some other novelists who tweet:
Mat Johnson
Nichelle Tramble
Tayari Jones

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